backpacking light

5:11 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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I don't have the desire to forsake comfort and go UL.  However, I do want to lighten up.  I would like to end up with a pack that is 18 - 22 lbs.

Realistically, prioritize gear categories where I should start trying to cut weight first.

5:47 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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If you end up with a "wet" weight of 18-22lbs, for a weekend, I'd say you're UL...

I found I was able to cut the most weight for the least amount of money, from my stove/cooking system. That's where I'd start.

I'd get a single, 4-cup aluminum cooking pot to use for all of your cooking. A "grease pot" model, or its variants, are about $9, and under 5oz with a lid.

One can fashion a pretty efficient multi-fuel stove system from a cat-food can, aluminum flashing, and a few of the tent stakes you're likely already carrying. A stove setup for 3oz, and under $10. And good, 3oz canister stoves can be found in the $30 range.

When backpacking, switch to eating meals that require only the boiling of water, or one-step stuff like simmering for 3-4 minutes...

When you eat, either eat out of the pot, or put your food in a heavier-gauge zip-top bag and then just pour your water into the bag. The bag gets tucked into a spare fleece or something and is left to cool/cook.

I use a spork or long-handled spoon to eat just about everything that requires a utensil.

Also, as far as cleanup, I use liquid Dr. Bronner's Soap repackaged in a 20ml dropper bottle. (Repack all of your fluids, spices, and such, bringing only the amount you know you'll need...) I use either my bandana, or a microfiber towel (packs of 3 at the dollar store...), and a pinch of dirt for any needed pot scrubbing.

These types of changes have allowed me to shed multiple pounds of weight from my pack, and an incredible amount of volume compared to the previous cooking kit I carried, while still having very tasty meals in the backcountry. If you want to get real gourmet about it, find a food dehydrator and you can lighten up even more while futher increasing variety...

7:59 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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if by "wet" (I'm kind of new to this) you mean food and water, then I am talking "dry" I guess?  Because I am just talking gear alone.


10:25 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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If you're talking dry weight, that's easy to achieve.  My dry weight for a weeklong trip runs around 25 lb, and I carry a lot of extras (repair kits, a few knives, etc) and a bear canister.  I also make no sacrifices to comfort.  It just takes money.  It took me a number of years to get the set up, but it works for me.  This is what I use, you can get an idea of what types of things can be used to meet that weight:

Pack - Osprey Atmos 65

Tent - Marmot EOS 1P

Pad - Pacific Outdoors Insulmat (full size full thickness comfort!)

Bag - Western Mountaineering Summerlite

Stove - Snow Peak Giga when solo, MSR Windpro when cooking for a group

Pot - Brunton IB (larger pot of the set) when solo, Jetboil GCS 2L when cooking for a group

Canister - Bearikade

For a weeklong trip I only bring one change of shorts and two changes of T-shirt and underwear.

There is a wide selection of lightweight gear from various brands that would give you the equivalent of my list.  Just find what works for you (and what you can afford, like I said, it took me a number of years).

10:28 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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And to directly answer your question, the areas where you can make the biggest changes in total weight with a single purchase are tent and bag, followed by pack and pad.  If you are already using a small stove and pot, it takes a lot of money to lose just a few ounces.

My brother used to maintain a spreadsheet of potential purchases, with a calculation of total weight change per dollar spent.

11:03 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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comparing to my UL friend, that is what I noticed as we compared.  I just wanted another look for comparison.

Thanks again for the insight.  

8:31 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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I am UUL I guess>My gear weighs as follows

Pack 65L 3 lbs

S. Bag 20 degree 3 lb  (polarguard)

Tent  4.5 lb

Pad 1 lb

Stove w/ fuel, 1 qt pot and spork 1 lb

Water filter .5 lb

Rain Gear 1 lb

14 lbs 

8:35 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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My tent and pack and sleeping bag and Exped downmat all come to 23 lbs just by themselves. 

11:03 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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Summer; 14 lbs

Winter; 35 lbs

11:05 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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Tipi Walter,

And you hike/camp in all seasons too. I hike in the north in Wyoming and Utah during the summer and in southern Arizona in the winters. I don't snow camp. I used to but not since 1980 in the high Sierra. I have at the Grand Canyon but winter below the rims is like Phoenix/Tucson in the winter, mild at 50-70 days and just cold at night usually with no snow. My bag only goes to 20.

12:23 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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For numbers, my total weight for pack, tent, bag, pad, canister, and stove w/fuel is 12.5 lb.  My total load out with spare clothes, wool shirt, windbreaker/rain shell, repair kits, tools, camera, sunscreen, bug spray, toiletries, etc is 25 lb.  Including food and water at the trailhead, I typically start a six day trip at around 36 lb and a nine day trip at 40 lb.  Note from my list above that I have all the comforts of a full coverage tent and a full length thick pad.

1:54 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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The best way to shave carry weight is lose inches from the waist!  Most of us can shave 10 - 15 pounds off our gut.  Don't forget you have to carry that weight too.


7:26 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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And lets not forget Boots. If you don't need them, don't wear them. What is it? 1 Lb on your feet is 5 on your back.

8:52 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks again for all your help, folks.

I think I have some good starting points.  After 8 or so months of posting here and there, I am finally taking off on my first trip tomorrow morning.  It is just an overnighter for a total of 22 miles or so.

But after finally getting my pack (what I thought was) set, I was a little disappointed at how heavy it packed out.  Guess a beginner shouldn't be comparing to an experienced UL friend and his pack weight of 10 lbs.  However, I have managed to whittled it down to just over 26 lbs with a few known creature comforts that I just couldn't make myself leave out.  

10:03 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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Ed, you raise an excellent point and one which is frequently ignored among gear talk.

11:02 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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26 lbs isn't bad.

And hey if you tire out after an hour or two just find a spot and camp. It's ok. This is not a race. It's about being out there, and enjoying it.

11:56 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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I'm not really worried about the weight.  I have pretty good endurance and strength.  I am more concerned about comfort...hence the heavier pack!  BUT...I would love to shed some weight in places where it is reasonable.  

Examples...My pack is a used external Kelty from eBay.  It alone weighs over 5 pounds.   My tent is a MH Laser 2 weighing in at just over 5 pounds.  These are just a couple of pieces of equipment that I know I can replace as I can afford to and save significant weight.  

12:12 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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Good comments.  Sleep system, shelter and kitchen are the best places to save weight.

12:36 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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Regarding the comment about boots - Yes, if you can shave weight there, it makes a big difference.  Just make sure that your footwear matches your needs.  For example, I would love to switch to lightweight hiking shoes, but I spend a significant amount of my time on talus and rocks, and the lightweight shoes just don't work for me.  My feet would be bruised at the end of the day, and I would be stopping regularly to pour gravel out of the shoes.  I need solid foot support and high tops.

4:00 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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A used Kelty you say? I use an external frame Kelty as well. Not to worry, after 1/2 mile you will make adjustments. Try to get the weight on your hips and the shoulders used as support. Soon you will be walking upright and notice very little on your back. This might take a few stops for adjustments.  

1:19 p.m. on February 8, 2013 (EST)
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Where to prioritize?

It’s said that it is silly to start drilling holes in your tooth brush handle until you first take a good hard look at the weight of your “Big Three” first –

The three heaviest  things most backpackers carry is the shelters, the sleep system and the backpack itself.

My pack is a 70 liter  Golite Jam, weighs about two pounds.

If traveling solo I use a Kelty Light Year 20 degree down bag that is about 2-1/2 pounds ( it’s a women’s long bag ) and I am quite happy with a simple walmart foam pad in the summer.

For a shelter I have a number of options. I like tarps and my Spinn Twinn is under a pound with ground cloth, stakes and what-not, but I also have a fantastic Tarptent Squall 2 that is just a tad over two pounds, and we also have a 3 man Rainshadow Tarptent that I use when my wife comes with me, which is a little over 2-1/2 pounds.

It’s pretty easy to limit each of the  “Big Three”  to three pounds each with modern gear, especially for easy beginner summer trips.

Getting this stuff down to two pounds each takes some work and skill, but the payoff is being able to almost “float” down the trail with almost no fatigue, rolling off the miles – If you want to roll off miles – Almost effortlessly, as compared to laboriously hauling a fifty pound pack three miles and calling it good!

Want an example?

The Grand canyon in winter was mentioned above. For a January Grand canyon trip this year with my wife I packed the following –

My backpack, two pounds. Inside it was the following -

Clothing bag --- 41.8 ounces
Contains REI long johns, ( top and bottom ), Uniqlo nylon and fleece pants and, “heattech” synthetic T, 2 pair merino wool socks from Costco, and a very warm quilted hat that is to silly to be seen in public with.

Cook kit – Two quart aluminum cooking pail with lid, two plastic bowls and two plastic cups. --- 13.2 ounces

MSR Whisperlight stove, complete with wind screen, pump/ fuel bottle, a book of matches and homemade cotton stuff sack that doubles as a pot holder --- 18.4 ounces

Tent with pole, lines and stakes --- 42.8 ounces  – This was a huge Tarptent Rainshadow 2, a big single wall three man tent.

Food bag --- 4.1 ounces (!) I need something lighter for this!

Big polycro ground cloth --- 2.9 ounces

In the big outer pocket where I could get to them was  -  Frogg Togg rain suit --- 10.1 ounces, and Uniqulo down parka --- 9.3 ounces and my repair kit, Contains 10 or 15 feet of “triptease” line, matches, fire starter, sewing kit, adhesive tape, patch kit for thermarest sleeping pads, compass with sighting mirror, two packs eye glass cleaners and maybe some other stuff that I forget…3.7 ounces.

In the mesh side pockets were - 1 liter platypus bladder and two one liter power aid bottles for water --- 4.2 ounces

Huge probably rayon square scarf tied to outside of pack --- 1.1 ounce

Total, 147.6 ounces, or 9,225 pounds

And that’s where I stopped weighting things. At the last moment I threw in my prescription sun glasses, spikes for my boots and a garbage bag to line my pack in the case of rain.

Base or “dry” weight, under 11 pounds!  

Clothing worn at start at rim –

Army surplus BDU trousers --- 26.8 ounces
Fleece anorak --- 14.6 ounces
Fleece shirt --- 15.5 ounces
“heatech” turtleneck --- 5.8 ounces
REI merino wool socks --- 3.6 ounces
Merrell something-or-other boots 36.7 ounces
Total, 103 ounces or 6.4 pounds

Much of the upper layers went into the pack down in the canyon.

Carried on person –

Gerber LST pocket knife --- 1.2 ounces
Flashlight --- 1.9 ounce
Bic --- .6 ounce
Handkerchief --- .7
Gun, Keltec P32 --- 9.8 ounces loaded with 8 silvertips

I carried all our food for the trip except for some snack my wife carried, and it totaled about ten pounds for the three night, four day trip.

Thus, my total FSO ( From Skin Out ) load ( with three quarts water ) was about 35 pounds.

Heh, you may notice I carried no sleeping gear at all!

My wife carried our sleeping quilt, a home made Ray Way 2P kit with two layers of Alpine insulation, and our two thermarest inflatable pads.

She also carried our dopp kit, first aid kit, her own clothing bag, tiny flashlight, and some snacks.

She always packs in a whirlwind the night before the trip ( drives me nuts! ) so I couldn’t weight anything, but her total load was probably no more than 12 or 13 pounds total.

As you can see, we lacked nothing at all on this trip. Our weights were not considered “ultralight” but were pretty durn low by traditional standards, and this sure as heck helps on those big elevation changes!

In fact, my wife has downright bad knees. This was a primary motivation for me to re-learn and re-equip with lightweight gear in recent years, so she could continue hiking with me. Un-necessarily heavy loads are murder on the body!

June 23, 2018
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